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Is the opposite of positive negative? Untangling the complex relationship between work‐family enrichment and conflict

Gary N. Powell (University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut, USA)
Jeffrey H. Greenhaus (Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 1 December 2006




The relationship between work‐family enrichment (WFE), representing positive interdependencies between individuals' work and family roles, and work‐family conflict (WFC), representing negative interdependencies between the same roles, has been discussed but never fully clarified in the scholarly literature on the work‐family interface. The purpose of this article is to increase understanding of the relationship between these two constructs.


The relationship between WFE and WFC is conceptualized at the level of a “resource” that may be generated in one role, work or family, and applied to the other role. This approach offers an alternative to the more typical approach of analyzing this relationship at the aggregate level across all possible resources.


The answer to the question posed in the title of the article is “yes or no”, or “it depends”. At the resource level, it is suggested that WFE is either unrelated or negatively related to WFC depending on the specific process under consideration by which experiences in one role may affect experiences in the other role.

Research limitations/implications

Future research that examines the relationship between WFE and WFC at the resource level is recommended. For this research to be conducted, new measures are needed that assess these two constructs at the resource level.


This article sheds light on the resource‐level conditions under which positive vs negative interdependencies between work and family roles may occur. In addition, it argues that research on the work‐family interface that goes beyond the aggregate level of analysis is sorely needed.



Powell, G.N. and Greenhaus, J.H. (2006), "Is the opposite of positive negative? Untangling the complex relationship between work‐family enrichment and conflict", Career Development International, Vol. 11 No. 7, pp. 650-659.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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